Imagining the end: comic perspectives and critical spaces
2017-02-21T02:58:54Z (GMT) by
This thesis examines dystopian apocalyptic writing from a comparative perspective through the analysis of six literary texts taken from the last five decades: Har (2006) by Murat Uyurkulak, Animal’s People (2007) by Indra Sinha, Galápagos (1985) by Kurt Vonnegut and the MaddAddam Trilogy (2003-2013) by Margaret Atwood. These texts can all be considered loosely “dystopian” and all follow the traditional religious model of “the apocalypse” to varying degrees, but the thesis concentrates on secular reworkings which problematise apocalyptic configurations of man, nation and progress. It argues for a new interpretation of the apocalypse as neither a nihilistic embrace of total disorder nor an over-investment in the order of social and literary constructs. The first chapter contextualises the notions of dystopia and apocalypse, both as eschaton and telos, by way of the diverse but not unrelated theories of narratology, postmodernism and ecocriticism. It aims to reflect the versatility and openendedness of what has been termed the “apocalyptic paradigm,” and develops a comic understanding of apocalypse. Subsequent chapters provide close readings of the novels. Chapter Two focuses on Har and examines how a national narrative can distort, if not exclude, the stories of its ethnic “other.” The third chapter discusses Sinha’s Animal’s People, which tells the story of an environmental apocalypse and its ongoing effects on the less advantaged. The novel revisits the idea of distortion by portraying Animal’s physically deformed body as a site of contested narratives. Chapter Four shifts from distorted humans and narratives to the end of humanity and story as depicted by Vonnegut in Galápagos. Vonnegut invests in the power of words to challenge destructive human potential, and thus represents “nothingness,” or the post-apocalyptic disappearance of words, as only a pseudo eutopia. The MaddAddam trilogy, the focus of the fifth and final chapter, also plays with the idea of human extinction brought about by hyper-capitalism. Atwood imagines both grim and humorous alternatives to humanity’s unsustainable ways, but simultaneously acknowledges the problems inherent in final solutions. Identifying the common ground opened up by these texts for constructive social critique, the thesis shows how their authors adopt novel ways of tackling the idea of the end, and the possibility of future betterment. This eutopian desire is manifest in their comic and counter-apocalyptic representations of the end, and their endeavours to reach beyond the end of representation.